More From the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows


adj. astonished to think back on the bizarre sequence of accidents that brought you to where you are today—as if you’d spent years bouncing down a Plinko pegboard, passing through a million harmless decision points, any one of which might’ve changed everything—which makes your long and winding path feel fated from the start, yet so unlikely as to be virtually impossible.


n. a conversational hint that you have something personal to say on the subject but don’t go any further—an emphatic nod, a half-told anecdote, an enigmatic ‘I know the feeling’—which you place into conversations like those little flags that warn diggers of something buried underground: maybe a cable that secretly powers your house, maybe a fiberoptic link to some foreign country.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the number of things in the world you know very little or nothing about? That’s the feeling I was trying to find a word for. It seems like the older I get, the better I understand the vastness of all human knowledge, and I’m more aware that the time I have to understand even a tiny part of it is rapidly slipping away. Like sonder but instead of human experience, human knowledge.

There are words that come close. Ignoramus. Naiveté. I assembled sciolistic sciamachies just exploring words in the vicinity of what I’m trying to express.